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Trump accused of using police as his private security force

DONALD Trump may be trying to bring a touch of jet-set glamour to Scotland's north-east with his golf resort playground for the rich and famous.

Many living in the area around Donald Trump's proposed golf course in Aberdeenshire believe the tycoon's relationship with local police is too close. Below: singer Karine Polwart, whose song about Trump will be unveiled in Edinburgh tonight  Photograph:  Danny Lawson/PA
Many living in the area around Donald Trump's proposed golf course in Aberdeenshire believe the tycoon's relationship with local police is too close. Below: singer Karine Polwart, whose song about Trump will be unveiled in Edinburgh tonight Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

But it seems the US property tycoon is also trying to secure himself the type of protection reserved for Hollywood stars by turning the local constabulary into his own private police force.

Trump has come under attack from Grampian Police for repeatedly demanding tougher security at his controversial golf resort, under construction at the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire, according to internal police reports seen by the Sunday Herald.

The billionaire has piled pressure on the police to increase protection of the estate by making more patrols and by responding more rapidly when called. Over the last two years, Trump and his aides have held numerous meetings and discussions with senior police officers, urging them to do more.

A series of memos marked “restricted” show that the police have struggled to resist this pressure, and have become worried that their impartiality could be damaged. Trump had “unrealistic expectations” that Grampian Police would behave like the New York Police Department (NYPD), Scots officers said.

The revelations come against a background of growing disillusionment about the police’s relationship with the Trump Organisation. Two documentary film-makers were arrested and imprisoned after interviewing one of Trump’s staff, but the charges were dropped.

Local residents opposed to the Trump development say there is a perception that the police “are working as a private security force for Trump”.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, Grampian Police have released more than 200 pages of internal reports, memos and e-mails detailing a tense and sometimes “difficult” relationship with the Trump Organisation since it won planning permission for the £750 million golf and hotel development in November 2008.

The documents reveal that Trump, his son Donald Jr and his senior aides frequently pressed individual police officers to beef up security to ensure their personal protection and to combat vandalism. But their unrelenting demands irked the police, who kept trying to “manage” Trump’s expectations.

On October 7, 2010, Trump requested that Inspector Steve Pratt meet him at short notice to defend policing tactics. In a formal minute of the meeting, Pratt said he reminded Trump that the aim was to police with the co-operation of the community, “as opposed to what he was used to in the USA”.

Pratt was ordered to write the minute by his Aberdeenshire divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Mark McLaren. McLaren was anxious to “avoid similar circumstances in the future” because they could make the police look biased.

He wrote: “Without independent corroboration of what was discussed, the purpose of the meeting could be open to speculation, which could potentially undermine our neutral stance.

“To a neutral observer, a police inspector meeting with a visiting, multimillionaire American businessman, with a vested interest in a massive and extremely powerful business venture, does not sit equally with any visit to a local resident concerned about their home and property.”

On October 28, 2009, Trump’s son and a senior aide, George Sorial, “ambushed” Grampian Police’s critical-incident planning co-ordinator, Inspector Derek Hiley. They turned up unexpectedly at a meeting and demanded to know what the police reaction would be “if a dreadlocked individual in combats was on the estate in the middle of the night”.

According to an e-mail he wrote to colleagues later that day, Hiley warned against Trump’s security officers tackling any intruders, and suggested calling police. “It was a difficult 10 minutes that kind of sets the scene as to where we are in the relationship,” Hiley wrote. “Trump’s expectations remain very high.”

Hiley and a colleague met again with Trump Jr, Sorial and others on May 4, 2010. It was clear they wanted “to develop relations with Grampian Police, using their relationship with [the] NYPD as an example,” said Hiley. “George Sorial was quite direct, advising he wanted a greater policing involvement on the estate.”

In response, Hiley said he was “realistic, advising of competing demands and resources”. But the police did agree to conduct more patrols of the estate in response to an incident of vandalism, and to tell the media that was happening. Another account of the meeting said that Hiley “answered the Trump Organisation’s concerns and clarified some of the organisation’s unrealistic expectations”.

Police e-mails also reveal that Hiley had met Trump’s director of security, former NYPD officer Keith Schiller, in May 2009 to discuss security at the Menie estate. Afterwards, he received a warm e-mail from Schiller, saying he was looking forward to them working together.

Discussions also took place between the police and Trump’s staff about what to do “should an incident like … tunnelling occur on the estate”. In the past, protesters have dug tunnels to occupy construction sites or lived in trees.

In an e-mail on October 20, 2009, McLaren wrote: “I think it is wise to start discussions with the Trump people now to manage expectations about what our approach is likely to be. My guess would be that this thinking will not meet with the approval of the Trump people.”

Grampian Police also complained about money wasted preparing for a visit by Trump in July 2009 which was cancelled at the last minute. Some officers even considered trying to recover £2069.76 from the Trump Organisation.

But local residents opposed to Trump’s golf complex are yet to be convinced that the police are impartial. David Milne, who lives next to the planned development, said: “If something happens on the estate, most of the locals won’t bother calling the police because of the perception that they are working as a private security force for Trump and his personnel.

“I do actually have some sympathy for Grampian Police, being caught in the middle of an argument like this, with the constant hassle from the Trump Organisation to do their bidding on one side, and the laws of the land on the other.”

Anthony Baxter, one of the film-makers arrested on July 30, 2010, was scathing about the police’s role. “Police claims that they are impartial don’t stand up to scrutiny,” he said.

Baxter directed the 95-minute film You’ve Been Trumped, which has been playing to audiences across Scotland. It includes footage of his arrest, which led to him spending four hours in prison and being charged with breach of the peace, though this was subsequently abandoned.

You’ve Been Trumped is being shown tonight at Edinburgh Filmhouse, accompanied by the launch of a new song by Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, inspired by the film. Later this month it is being screened again in Aberdeen, and at a festival in New York, to which Trump has been invited.

Baxter, who is based in Montrose, said he once respected the police, “but after this incident my faith has been absolutely shattered”.

A spokesman for Grampian Police said the force was “committed to operating in a manner which is both fair and impartial at all times, whilst attempting to meet the expectations of all those we serve.”

The Trump Organisation said it had been under attack from extreme fringe groups “intent on vandalising our site”. A spokeswoman added: “After a spate of serious incidents, we asked for police intervention and assistance.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “Mr Trump seems to think that the police force is his own private plaything. The testimonies of local residents and the footage I’ve seen of Baxter being arrested in a totally unacceptable way give the clear impression that Grampian Police are failing to maintain their neutrality.”

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